Before the collapse of the socialist Czechoslovakia, about 80% of the Roma living in Sečovce were employed. Since then, the unemployment rate has amounted to almost 100%. Job opportunities are almost entirely limited to public work programmes, e.g. working as a street cleaner for 3-6 months. Many Roma had previously worked in agriculture – however, following reprivatisation these jobs ceased to be available.
The Roma community lives in Habeš, a settlement isolated from the town. This settlement is characterised by desolation, there is no infrastructure in the community, and people live under inhumane living conditions without a proper water supply. The only water source provides cold water to the whole community of approximately 1,200 people. The inhabitants suffer from very poor health because of these appalling living conditions (very few Roma reach the age of 70). The settlement has no paved roads, no sewerage system and no access to electricity. Improving the living conditions in Habeš is a prerequisite for long-term sustainable improvements in quality of life for the people living there.
Due to the high level of unemployment and the lack of education, there are no real perspectives for the Roma community to be included in and to participate in society. The project, therefore, focusses on agriculture and horticulture in order to create income opportunities for the people living in Habeš and in Sečovce.
Measures put in place
Seeking to ensure long-term improvements in the settlement, the Central Council of the German Sinti and Roma met with representatives of the Slovak Government and of the local administration. Since then, a new communication centre for Roma employing several social workers has been established in Sečovce. This centre was acquired with funds supplied, among others, by the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation. In 2014, the Sečovce municipality paved the roads in Habeš and started building new housing units as part of an initial national programme. Other organisations from Germany, the monastery of Maria Laach in particular, have now come forward to support the project. Thanks their support of, a carpentry workshop and an educational garden have been established in the Habeš settlement.